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The Wildcat's Guide to Recycling at Northwestern

Don't let figuring out what does and does not go in the recycling bin be a headache. With this handy guide to recycling at Northwestern and the surrounding community, you’ll be a pro in no time! 

Since 1989, recycling has been a critical part of Northwestern’s sustainability efforts. Currently, the University recycles more than 2,700 tons of materials per year and diverts 40 percent of campus waste from landfills. In 2016, Northwestern moved to mixed recycling, which means that paper, cardboard, cans, glass, and plastic are collected together in the same recycling bins.  

Recycling On-Campus 

If you live or work on campus, these blue recycling bins can be found in classroom and office buildings, throughout residence halls and common areas, and our athletic facilities.


So, what exactly goes into the blue bins and what goes into the trash?


For more information, please check out our What You Can Recycle at Northwestern page. If you need a recycling bin or labels, please email sustainNU.

Recycling Off-Campus 

If you live off-campus, the process is a bit different. Recycling off-campus is supported by the City of Evanston or the City of Chicago. Check with your local city government for more details about what can be recycled and how. You can also find information about recycling off-campus here

Reduce and Reuse 

Recycling is great, but don’t forget about the two R’s that come before it: reduce and reuse. After all, the most effective way to prevent waste from entering landfills is to not produce it at all. Not only is it sustainable, it also benefits your wallet. Here are a few tips on reducing and reusing. 


  • Purchase only what is necessary 
  • Buy items that are made of durable materials 
  • Look for items with minimal packaging 


  • Choose reusable items over disposable ones 
  • Maintain or repair broken items to give them a second life 
  • Buy used items or rent or share things 

Recycling is a chance for an item to get a second life, but knowing how and what to recycle is crucial to keeping the process running smoothly. Wishcycling, or recycling something you think or hope can be recycled, can actually decrease efficiency, damage recycling equipment, harm workers, and cause more environmental damage.